The first-gen Hyundai Excel is extremely rare junkyard find, with most Excels having been crushed before they hit ten years old. The story of the Chevy Vega is similar, though most Vegas survived a bit longer than Excels did. I hadn’t seen a Vega in a junkyard for at least a decade (not counting Pontiac-badged Vega wagons) when I found this reasonably solid example at a California self-service yard a couple weeks back.
The Vega had the potential to be a good car, capable of fending off the onrushing Japanese invasion, but GM staggered through a series of bureaucratic and engineering blunders and what ended up in Chevrolet showrooms was quite disappointing.
500 pounds heavier than the original design, plagued by corrosion problems, and with a troublesome iron-head/aluminum-block engine, the Vega was also a good-looking car that got decent fuel economy. It sold in large numbers… and turned countless GM loyalists into Toyota buyers during the course of the 1970s.
Like the Corvair before it and the Fiero after it, the Vega was a great idea executed poorly. Perhaps The General would have been better off going all-out with an Americanized Opel Kadett for its Chevy subcompact.
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